5 Matching Annotations
  1. Last 7 days
    1. One of the sad ironies of our time is that we have become very good at studying nature just as it begins to sicken and die under our weight. “Weight” is no mere metaphor: of all land mammals and birds alive today, humans and their livestock make up 96 per cent of the biomass; wildlife has dwindled to four per cent. This has no precedent. Not so far back in history the proportions were the other way round. As recently as 1970, humans were only half and wildlife more than twice their present numbers. These closely linked figures are milestones along our rush towards a trashed and looted planet, stripped of diversity, wildness, and resilience; strewn with waste. Such is the measure of our success.

      As the Tel Aviv researchers who revealed the pattern of progressively overhunting the largest fauna to extinction, then turning to the next largest available fauna noted:

      "We believe that our model is relevant to human cultures everywhere. Moreover, for the first time, we argue that the driving force behind the constant improvement in human technology is the continual decline in the size of game. Ultimately, it may well be that 10,000 years ago in the Southern Levant, animals became too small or too rare to provide humans with sufficient food, and this could be related to the advent of agriculture. In addition, we confirmed the hypothesis that the extinction of large animals was caused by humans -- who time and time again destroyed their own livelihood through overhunting. We may therefore conclude that humans have always ravaged their environment but were usually clever enough to find solutions for the problems they had created -- from the bow and arrow to the agricultural revolution. The environment, however, always paid a devastating price."

      https://hyp.is/go?url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.sciencedaily.com%2Freleases%2F2021%2F12%2F211221102708.htm&group=world

      It seems humans have a built-in blindspot that prioritizes short term needs over long term survival. History shows us that we are continuously biased towards prioritizing the human environment over the natural one but future generations eventually pay the price for this myopia.

    1. Dr. Ben-Dor: "Our findings enable us to propose a fascinating hypothesis on the development of humankind: humans always preferred to hunt the largest animals available in their environment, until these became very rare or extinct, forcing the prehistoric hunters to seek the next in size. As a result, to obtain the same amount of food, every human species appearing in the Southern Levant was compelled to hunt smaller animals than its predecessor, and consequently had to develop more advanced and effective technologies. Thus, for example, while spears were sufficient for Homo erectus to kill elephants at close range, modern humans developed the bow and arrow to kill fast-running gazelles from a distance." Prof. Barkai concludes: "We believe that our model is relevant to human cultures everywhere. Moreover, for the first time, we argue that the driving force behind the constant improvement in human technology is the continual decline in the size of game. Ultimately, it may well be that 10,000 years ago in the Southern Levant, animals became too small or too rare to provide humans with sufficient food, and this could be related to the advent of agriculture. In addition, we confirmed the hypothesis that the extinction of large animals was caused by humans -- who time and time again destroyed their own livelihood through overhunting. We may therefore conclude that humans have always ravaged their environment but were usually clever enough to find solutions for the problems they had created -- from the bow and arrow to the agricultural revolution. The environment, however, always paid a devastating price."

      This is a fascinating claim with far reaching consequences for modern humans dealing with the Anthropocene polycrisis.

      Technological development seems to have been related to our resource overshoot. As we extirpated the larger prey fauna which were slower moving and able to be successfully hunted with crude weapons, our ancestors were forced to hunt smaller and more agile species, requiring better hunting technologies.

      Agriculture could have been the only option left to our ancestors when there was insufficient species left to support society. This is the most salient sentence:

      "we confirmed the hypothesis that the extinction of large animals was caused by humans -- who time and time again destroyed their own livelihood through overhunting. We may therefore conclude that humans have always ravaged their environment but were usually clever enough to find solutions for the problems they had created"

      This is a disturbing finding as technology has allowed humanity to be the apex species of the planet and we are now depleting resources not on a local scale, but a global one. There is no planet B to move to once we have decimated the environment globally.

      Have we progressed ourselves into a corner? Are we able to culturally pivot and correct such an entrenched cultural behavior of resource mismanagement?

    2. In this way, according to the researchers, early humans repeatedly overhunted large animals to extinction (or until they became so rare that they disappeared from the archaeological record) and then went on to the next in size -- improving their hunting technologies to meet the new challenge. The researchers also claim that about 10,000 years ago, when animals larger than deer became extinct, humans began to domesticate plants and animals to supply their needs, and this may be why the agricultural revolution began in the Levant at precisely that time.

      This is an extraordinary claim, that due to extirpation of fauna prey species, we resorted to agriculture. In other words, that we hunted the largest prey, and when they went extinct, went after the next largest species until all the large megafauna became extinct. According to this claim, agriculture became a necessity due to our poor intergenerational resource management skills.

    3. A groundbreaking study by researchers from Tel Aviv University tracks the development of early humans' hunting practices over the last 1.5 million years -- as reflected in the animals they hunted and consumed. The researchers claim that at any given time early humans preferred to hunt the largest animals available in their surroundings, which provided the greatest quantities of food in return for a unit of effort.

      Our ancestors had a bias to hunt the biggest game. This makes sense from an evolutionary perspective but the unintended consequence of a species with better than average combination of cognitive, toolmaking and collaborative skills was resource overshoot, extirpation and extinction.

      It seems we in modernity are simply repeating ancient cultural patterns of lack of foresight, exasperated by technological sophistication that shortens the cycle time for resource extraction and therefore for extirpation of prey species. Certainly, this is not universal as there are cases where our ancestors did manage resources much more effectively.

  2. Feb 2022
    1. It’s the fear that having a kid in this day and age dooms that kid to a miserable life on a miserably hot planet.

      That may be what some people believe, but there are other reasons too. Resource depletion, food shortages, and underemployment are big ones. Having fewer children isn't just about the climate; it's about creating a generally healthier society in the long term.